Food Waste

A monumental problem we face is a growing population. With a growing population comes questions of how will everyone be fed? At the root of the problem, it is not merely a production problem, rather, it is a distribution problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, one third of the food produced is wasted per year. That equates to 1.3 billion tonnes of waste! It costs industrialized countries $680 billion and developing countries $310 billion annually.

Knowing the excessive cost food waste provides, where does it come from? When we look at poorer countries we see a common theme…storage. In warm, humid climates it is hard to preserve food and with it comes rodents, parasites, and fungus. With a lack of refrigeration, means of transportation, and unsanitary markets, poorer countries lose food before it reaches the mouths who need it. Packaging practices are unlike those in countries like the US. There is no vacuum seal, flash freezing, or perfectly stacked crates. People make due with what they have like wicker baskets and nets. Though not all of this food is thrown away, it is wasted before it gets to the consumer.

In industrialized countries there are problems late in the supply chain. The first problem is the aesthetic appearance of the food. Do you ever wonder what happens to the rest of a ‘baby carrot?’ If carrots are blemished, bent at the incorrect angle or are not bright enough they are thrown away or turned into our ‘baby carrots.’ It is estimated that 30% of all carrots produced are discarded due to their physical appearance. Industrialized countries consume processed food in a much higher amount that developing nations. This creates waste from cutting food like potatoes for french fries, trimming scraps for perfectly proportioned meals, and byproducts of cooking or extracting foods.

A major cause of retail waste comes from poor dating, too hot or cold holding temperatures, and lack of staff to rotate foods. There is a common misconception that the best before date is the date to toss an item. It is actually indicating the peak quality the manufactures feels the food is at. After that date they cannot insure the quality is at their standards but by no means states that the food is trash. High income countries see food as a commodity rather than an energy source. Massive amounts of money are spent on bulk products, specialty food, and excess food for a home. Household waste becomes a huge factor as families over buy food, fail to prepare the food to store it longer, and toss food they do not like or find pleasing.

If one fourth of the food wasted was saved, it could feed 870 million hungry people in the world! With 40% of the world’s people working in agriculture and employing the highest percentage of jobs worldwide, you would think that there would be immediate changes made so these people benefit from their trade. Though many workers in developing countries see their food rot before them, the 1% of farmers in the US rarely see the food they make go to market. so what can be done?

In low income countries, there needs to be education and technologies made available to preserve food. Improvements and investments in marketing facilities can boost outcomes and benefit a growing population. In high income countries, awareness is key. With buying options in the hands of the consumer, it is crucial the consumer knows what is happening to their food supply if they are not growing it themselves. Improvements in purchase and consumption planning can reduce waste in homes and at stores.

Waste is not only seen in the food produced. It spans across the use of resources to grow, ship, and store the food, energy used to grow the food and the capital put forth to invest in the food. Between all these modern issues we are creating global warming and climate change through our food system.

To me it seems like an oxymoron. Food is a staple, organic, basic need that we all have but yet we throw so much of it away. If there was care and appreciation for each hand that touched the food, the energy from the sun, and the nutrients used to put forth a life giving product, there would be no waste. Going forward, make it a priority to know where your food comes from and how much energy it took for it to get to you. The next time you see an ‘ugly’ potato in the grocery store, keep in mind you may be the only person willing to buy it before it is thrown away.

http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
http://www.madr.ro/docs/ind-alimentara/risipa_alimentara/presentation_food_waste.pdf
http://www.momagri.org/UK/agriculture-s-key-figures/With-close-to-40-%25-of-the-global-workforce-agriculture-is-the-world-s-largest-provider-of-jobs-_1066.html

 

Advertisements

Why do we have so much stuff?

Materialism is a key factor influencing waste worldwide. To understand the materialistic concept, we must first look at standard of living.  A standard of living is not an easy thing to measure as it is more about the perception of the life the individual has. The higher the standard of living the higher the perceived quality of life there is. When materialists experience dissatisfaction in life from non-material things, they tend to turn to material things to cope. Their goals turn from a need basis to a “I feel I deserved this” basis. Much of the ideals that materialists experience are related to their relationships and social expectations they experience. Material can mean things like wealth, status, and make or break a relationship for them. If someone has more possessions, it is seen that they have more money or a better life than another individual. This leads to over-consumption as others try to exude their status to compete with the one above them.

If we are in this vicious cycle of buying things, how do we know when to stop? Well, we don’t. We go, go, go, until we get to the top and then what? Ride it out? Spend more money? Buy more things to “make us happy?” Research has shown that no matter how many possessions you have, money you make, and how big of a house you have, your quality of life may be worse than a person living in a hut in the middle of a dessert. There are so many things we try to cover ourselves in: food, jewelry, fancy clothes. But those all have a much greater cost, an environmental cost and a mental cost. Not only are you draining your bank account, you are depleting the earth’s resources, and depleting your mental state.

Every impulse buy is one strike against Mother Nature. You don’t need that product, what you really need are relationships. You need a network of support and a reason to live rather than for status, wealth, or beauty. 20 tons of waste is produces per ounce of gold causing water, soil, and air pollution. Are those earrings worth harming the ecosystem? Is your perceived misfortune the reason our capitalist economies decide to keep selling us things we don’t need to be happy?

People across the globe are living on no money to millions of dollars. To compare a person making nothing to a person making a million dollars, you will see distinct differences in clothing, appearance, and hygiene. What you won’t see is the quality of their life. The person with no money may be the happiest person on the planet and has nothing to show but his attitude. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly buys us more trash. From small to large, purchases made globally eventually end up in landfills to sit and decay for centuries. Whole livelihoods are built around making things for consumers from factories to facilities where people can search out enjoyment. What if the solution to this waste was not to find sustainable material for the product, rather find a sustainable mind set change? Go from a place of needing things to finding solace in a peaceful walk or talking to a friend. Imagine to depth of changes that would be made if it was that simple to change a mindset from “I need” to “I have all I need.”

Live simply. The key point I am trying to get across from my quaint life is that you don’t need to surround yourself with things. You don’t need 20 pairs of shoes to be happy, you may only need two to play a crucial role in your life. Living simply is shifting your mindset from I want this and this and this to…I can live with just this and this is all I need.

See, once you get rid of the things, you leave yourself open to feel what is happening. You open your mind as you discover that if you buy less food, you feel better, if you watch less TV, you have more time to read, think, and dream. When you have that time to dream, there is no telling where your story will end.

 

 

Sirgy, M.J. Social Indicators Research (1998) 43: 227. doi:10.1023/A:1006820429653

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/415861-how-jewelry-production-hurts-the-environment-eco-friendly-options/

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑